To understand control’s real role [in software development], you need to distinguish between two drastically different kinds of projects:
- Project A will eventually cost about a million dollars and produce value of around $1.1 million.
- Project B will eventually cost about a million dollars and produce value of more than $50 million.
What’s immediately apparent is that control is really important for Project A but almost not at all important for Project B. This leads us to the odd conclusion that strict control is something that matters a lot on relatively useless projects and much less on useful projects. It suggests that the more you focus on control, the more likely you’re working on a project that’s striving to deliver something of relatively minor value.
To my mind, the question that’s much more important than how to control a software project is, why on earth are we doing so many projects that deliver such marginal value?